Building organizational capabilities to anticipate customer needs rather than react to them
Too many business leaders and Sales and Marketing professionals think that understanding Voice of Customer (VOC) data and then reacting to their interpretation of the data is an effective approach to business success.
In today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous business world, I do not believe being reactive to VOC data will yield the most impactful long term business results and in fact could jeopardize your business by missing the next innovative disruption in your market.
Why Focusing on the Current State is Dangerous
Marketing and sales professionals pride themselves on their ability to understand customers’ needs and solve those needs with products and services. But think of the process for a moment. Marketing is creating awareness and leads for sales to engage in conversations with customers about their current challenges and opportunities so they can close deals and hit quarterly financial targets. Depending upon your type of business, this Sales process could take between a few weeks and a few years. This reactive approach doesn’t take into account the following:
Volatile Market Dynamics
Your customer’s markets are going to be extremely volatile and increasingly competitive from now until forever. That competition is going to drive a number of outcomes including the commoditization of products faster than you anticipated, low cost entrants into markets, and extreme differentiation by existing competitors in order to survive.
Changing Decision-Maker Base
In addition to the changing market dynamics, your customer base is also changing rapidly. Most industries and markets are going to see 100% turnover of key decision makers every three years which means what you think your customers want today is going to be very different sooner that you expect.
Increased Technology Impacting Efficiencies
Dramatic increases in technology doesn’t always mean new products and services to customers. Many industries and markets are seeing significant increases in efficiencies of operations as a result of technologies. Better supply chain management, packaging and transportation, and enhanced financial system are driving costs out of the systems of business to offer customers and competitors more strategic advantages. These cost changes provide more flexibility, challenges, and opportunities through a business ecosystem.
As a result of these dynamics, your organization may be reacting to data and situations of the current state of the market which could be years behind from where they could be.
I believe the answer to this dilemma is building organizational capabilities to anticipate customer needs rather than react to them. Having and using business acumen skills to do that will be critical. Here are five steps proactive organizations with enhanced Business Acumen skills are taking to anticipate customer needs:
Anticipate and Map Your Customer’s Future Business Ecosystem
Create a roadmap that anticipates that future customers, competitors, and dynamics of their market 2-5 years from now.
Anticipate and Map Your Customer’s Customers Future Needs within the Ecosystem
In a Business-to-Business environment your customers have customers. The next part of the process should be anticipating the specific needs of your customer’s customers in their business ecosystem.
Understand Your Customer’s Business Strategy and Value Proposition Today and How They Will Need to Change in the Future
Your customers have a strategy that they are executing today; but what will that strategy need to be in the future based on your analysis of their future? Determine and anticipate their potential future value propositions.
Present Potential Gaps in their Strategic Thinking through Business Dialogues
Once you have identified where your customer is and where you think they will need to be, the most critical part of this process is sharing your insights with them and illustrate the gaps in their strategic thinking.
Provide Solutions to Close Gaps and Anticipate Needs
The final step in this proactive process is to share with your customer potential solutions that anticipate their needs and show them a way to close their gaps.
In summary, organizations looking to create long term shareholder value through sustainable business strategies must have the skills and tools to move from being reactive to proactively anticipating customer needs and then sharing ideas and perspectives for closing gaps through new solutions. In order to do this, organizations need significantly enhanced Business Acumen skills.